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What Next For Saraki In Kwara?

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For more than 40 years, the Saraki political dynasty controlled the political landscape of Kwara State, producing leaders who have governed ward, local and state governments. BIOLA AZEEZ writes on the likely political prospect of the dynasty after its candidates were all defeated in the last general election.

The Saraki political structure in Kwara State, which was started by the late iconic politician, Dr Olusola Saraki, has its strength in the ardent following and charismatic disposition of the late politician which attracted many people in the state and even from outside.

However, the entry of the late Saraki into the political arena of the state did not start on a rosy ride as he suffered early defeat. He later came back to the scene to ensure an effective delivery of his campaign programmes and eventual victory.

Stories were told of how Baba Oloye, as he was fondly called by his supporters and admirers, made astute and successful politicians out of many people that had never thought they could be that transformed in life, just as his philanthropic efforts galvanised the political structure to win many elections in the state for many years.

With the death of Dr Olusola Saraki in 2012, the baton of leadership fell on the scion of the Saraki political structure, Dr Bukola Saraki, who is currently the Senate President. Saraki, who had actually assumed leadership of the political structure, especially at the end of his two-term tenure as governor of Kwara State in 2011, successfully installed his former Commissioner for Finance, Abdulfatah Ahmed, from Kwara South Senatorial District, as his successor in office, while he moved up to become a senator, representing Kwara Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly.

With the expiration of the two-term tenure of Abdulfatah Ahmed come May 29, the race to sustain the hold on the political leadership in the state suffered a fatal blow as the Saraki political structure did not only lose the governorship election, the leader of the structure also lost in his bid to return to the Senate, while all other members of the structure in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who contested in the last general election were also defeated.

Though not the main thrust of this discourse, lessons from the total loss in the last elections have been discussed at many fora, while those that should learn from the experience have been able to chart way forward for future prospects. However, the raging question is, ‘What is next after Saraki?

The question became pertinent in view of the expectations after the defeat of the long-reigned political dynasty, likely events that would shape very near political future of the state, the likely or unlikely comeback of the Saraki political structure into political reckoning and the probable form that a return to power and dominance would take.

Political analysts believe that for the incoming government in the state to endear itself to the people, it has a duty and obligation to deliver dividends of democracy, even beyond the people’s expectations. Many also believe that the state would be better off if this was done.

The campaigns and elections are over and the people are eagerly looking up to the incoming administration to fulfill the promises it made during the electioneering. To a large extent, the incoming party is not oblivious of the people’s expectations, as the state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bashir Bolarinwa, said the party is aware of the high expectations of the public.

Speaking at a recent get-together held in Ilorin to commemorate the party’s victory in the recent general election, the Kwara APC chairman said everything would be done to justify the people’s confidence in the party and all its elected representatives, including the governor-elect and other lawmakers-elect.

Surely, the outgoing Senate President and the leader of the Saraki political dynasty, Senator Saraki, remains the leader of the Saraki political structure. However, pundits are of the opinion that to bounce back, the dynasty and its leaders and followers should begin to address such issues that resulted in the purported protest votes against the structure in the last general election.

According to a social critic in the state who is also the president, Afonja Descendants Union, Alhaji Olola Kasumu, bad following was part of dark sides of the dynasty.

“Saraki is the leader, yes we know. However, these people just left Bukola Saraki to think for them all the time. To me, I think effective following is all about following tenets, rules and regulations of a group with responsible suggestions, ideas and pieces of advice. Unfortunately, I won’t know if this action was taken by the followers. I believe effective following involves thinking right and making your stand firm and convincing to your fellow followers and the leader,” he said.

The social critic said he deduced from voices of the people in the state that many lieutenants of Senator Saraki took deliverables from the political structure but failed to deliver to the people in the grassroots.

On his views on the future of the Saraki political structure, Alhaji Kasumu rhetorically asked: “Who said it is the end? The father of the incoming governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, who is the first lawyer from the northern region of the country contested in election before, he didn’t win. An older brother of the incoming governor also contested to be governor before, he couldn’t clinch victory. The father is now coming back to reckoning through his son. Who said it was the end then?

“The late Saraki contested and lost when he first entered Kwara politics. He had to comeback into politics, fully restrategised and started winning. So, I believe if Bukola Saraki has good plan for Kwara State and Nigeria, it’s not the end. He must replan and capture Kwara back,” he said.

In the views of a group of loyalists of Senator Saraki in the Ilorin Emirate, under the aegis of Concerned Stalwarts of Kwara PDP, the whole experience could be summed up as, ‘after the storm comes rain’. The group, which prides itself on having such membership as PDP ward and local government chairmen and secretaries as well as youth leaders in all the five local government areas in the Ilorin Emirate, also has Alhaji Abdulkadir Oba Ajara, Alhaji Hassan Atanda Zoroh, Alhaji Nurudeen Gasali Alaaya, Alhaji Saadu Agaka, Alhaji Saad Ajelanwa, Alhaji Amasa Okolo, Engineer Obashola Alabi, Alhaji Musa Ayelabegan Hajia Nimota Oba Wankasi-Suleiman, and Alhaji Sule Maja, among others, as members.

According to the leader and secretary of the group, Alhaji Oba Ajara and Alhaji Nurudeen Alaaya, respectively, the party survived the storm it went through during the last electioneering campaign, and that the people are now experiencing rain of blessings in the fact that the state in particular and Nigeria as a whole still remain an indivisible corporate entity “because God did not allow evil machination of the latter-day desperate politicians whose stock-in-trade has been to forcefully grab power by all means in a manner reminiscent of a coup d’état.”

“Every disappointment, they say, is a blessing. The last election disappointment is also a blessing in disguise for Saraki and all of us PDP stalwarts in Kwara State. Sooner than later, we will bounce back. We have completed the circle of 2019 elections, barring court and tribunal litigations by aggrieved contestants in the polls. What we are left with now is appraising the whole exercise, appreciating the heroes of democracy who stood firmly against political oppression and daylight robbery, through demonstration of practical political maturity after the exercise.

“Among the heroes of our modem day democracy is no other than the outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki. But for his checkmating acumen of the militarised government from 2015, Nigeria would have wallowed in a quagmire of another full blown military government. He remains the hero of democracy because of his understanding of democratic tenets and norm, having come from a rich political family background, graduating to being a state chief executive for eight years, then to being a senator for eight years, attaining the Senate’s zenith height as the Senate President and custodian of the two National Assembly chambers, as well as installing many people in elective and appointive political positions and empowering many others. He remains unperturbed about the outcome of his senatorial and state election, seeing it as an act of God.

“Kwara State today remains a role model state in political maturity by the niche carved for it by the rare leadership qualities and virtues of this great politician and democrat that is peerless. After all, he (Saraki) is today the political mentor and benefactor of the sitting president with his Midas touch on the electoral success achieved in 2015 by the man who attempted the presidency four times before Providence, majorly from Saraki, smiled on him. Were any lesser and desperate politician to find himself in the political situation Saraki found himself, the state would have been set on fire,” the group said.

Speaking further on what’s next after the defeat of Saraki political dynasty in the last elections, Alhaji Oba Ajara said the next line of action would be to restrategize.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board and reorganise ourselves since we now know the true members of the fold. We’ll surely bounce back, very strongly,” he said.

Alhaji Ajara, who said the peaceful nature of PDP members after the elections did not mean that they are happy with the outcome, added that Senator Saraki actually directed them to be peaceful and take the matter as the wish of God.

“Dr Bukola Saraki is actually the architect of that action. That is his instruction to us. He abhors violence. So, we abide by his directive unlike happenings in some neighbouring states in the South-West, North and even South-South. There was nowhere that election results were peacefully accepted like here.

“We believe it’s a temporary setback. Those who are behind the deeds are now regretting. Majority of them are regretting their actions. They completely lost their sense of reasoning. Why? We don’t know. According to them, they don’t want to hear anything Saraki again, forgetting that he’s an institution; he can’t be uprooted. It’s like uprooting likes of Pa Awolowo, Dr Azikiwe, or Sardauna in the nation’s politics. It’s impossible. I know it’s a temporary setback which every human can be subjected to,” he said.

The state chairman of the African People’s Alliance (APA), Comrade Ibrahim Mabolaje, in his view about what is next after the defeat of Saraki in the last elections, said the happening means a lot to all politicians, adding that the election was not the end of the game.

“We have seen Saraki and what God has made him to impact on the state and Nigeria. Same can’t be said of the incoming government yet, since we don’t know what they have in their kitty. Let’s see what will happen first and then we will determine the future of election in the state. It is not the end of election for Saraki. It is certainly not the end of the road. Let’s see what the incoming APC government will do,” he said.

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Editorial/Opinion

Unending nightmare of flooding in Anambra

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Flood menace has become a perennial occurrence in Anambra State and the battle seems endless.

Whenever the rainy season approaches, various communities, especially those around the lower River Niger, become apprehensive due to the havoc wrecked by ravaging flood.

They always battle with the high rising waters in their various communities whenever it rains.

A few days ago, heavy flooding submerged several communities in Ogbaru, Anyamelum, Anam and other areas of the lower Niger River, but luckily, there were no records of deaths.

The incessant flooding in these areas are often blamed on poor management of the environment, poor building structures and felling of trees on flood plains.

It was gathered that felling of trees on river plains, construction of structures on water ways are major impediments to the free flow of water, thereby causing siltation.

Last year, over 375, 142 people were affected by flood disaster across 10 local government areas of the state. Out of the numbers, about 18, 144 people were in the category of people in need, while 973 were either injured or sick as a result of the disaster.

Investigation further revealed that Ogbaru Council Area has the highest number of affected persons with 131, 175, followed by Anambra West with 100, 775 while Onitsha South has the least with 1, 005 people.

The secretary of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Idris Abubarkar, recently urged residents of the areas to stop construction of structures on flood plains.

He also advised those in flood prone areas to respect early warning signals by NEMA and move up to higher lands. “A major cause of flooding is the siltation resulting from a number of dams and cutting down of trees on flood paths, so we need dredging and de-siltation so that water can remain in its natural course,” he said.

The Executive Secretary Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Paul Odenigbo, said the state government has created 28 emergency shelter centres in flood prone areas in case of flooding anytime.

According to him, the 28 emergency shelter centres include six in Anambra West, six in Anambra East, four in Awka North, four in Ogbaru, three in Ihiala, three in Awka South and two in Ekwusigo.

He, however, urged residents to get prepared for emergency evacuation or relocation, in case of flood disaster. Former Chairman of Ogbaru Local Government Area, Arinze Awogu, said

“The flood situation in Ogbaru LGA has continued to take a turn for the worst and we’ve been losing people over the years due flooding.

He called on government to provide them with better equipped hospital to enable them manage the emergency. Worried by the level of flooding in Ogbaru 1 Constituency, Hon Chukwunonso Noble Igwe, who represents the constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly, urged the state government to intervene quickly to save them from their sufferings.

Igwe said, “The only drainage system to check flood is the Sacamori drain in Okpoko and it is filled up with sand. That drainage is supposed to collect water from some parts of Awada, Fegge and the entire Okpoko down to Idemili River and finally to the River Niger, but for now, the Sacamori is filled up with sand, thereby enabling flood to ravage and destroy peoples’ property and lives.”

He described Ogbaru 1 Constituency as a no-go area because of the magnitude of flood during the rainy season, noting that most government schools in the area are completely non-functional due to flooding.

“Roads reading to Okpoko Boys Secondary School, Okpoko Girls Secondary School, and some other schools are in bad conditions, such that students struggle through rising waters to find their way home whenever it rains.”

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Editorial/Opinion

Ministerial appointment: The Aregbesola you don’t know – Farouk

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I wonder why the nomination of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola for ministerial appointment has been generating, unabated ripples and concomitant reactions across the country.

Nonetheless, the immediate past Osun State governor who was recently screened and cleared by the Senate will, in no distant time, be assigned a befitting portfolio.

But the uncommon consensus amidst a few pockets of unfounded criticisms against him has remained that many stalwarts of his party (APC) and friends hold him in a high esteem, saying he is a versatile and talented go-getter who can do wonders in any ministry or department.

Among his teeming adherents is Comrade Umar Farouk, an APC stalwart and friend of the former governor.

Farouk had recalled that as former Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Lagos State, Aregbesola laid the foundation for the infrastructural transformation of Lagos, one of the world’s largest megacities.

Comrade Farouk further noted that Ogbeni Aregbesola is not only an outstanding administrator and leader, but also a consumate grassroots campaigner and mobilizer who would take the NextLevel policy thrust of President Muhammadu Buahri’s administration to all and sundry.

“From my interactions with Ogbeni Aregbesola, I see him as a catalyst that would make that much needed difference that Nigerians yearns for under the Buhari administration. He has the experience and capacity”, Farouk maintained.

Equally commenting on the nomination, Prince Newgent Ekamon, a civil rights activist, described Ogbeni Aregbesola as pro- democrat and fiscal federalism advocate whose impact in government would not ignored.

” I recall that as governor of Osun state, Ogbeni Aregbesola was able to create 20, 000 jobs in his first 100 days and went on to initiate other popular socio-economic and people friendly programmes. This tells us that Nigerians would be the better for it with the coming of Ogbeni Aregbesola as Minister. His vast experience in government and skill would see him hit the ground running. He is not just a technocrat, and astute manager of men and materials, he is also a pro-people politician “, Ekamon affirmed.

A Public Affairs Analyst, Abdulkarim Salihu noted that he sees Ogbeni Ategbesola as team player, tested, trust worthy and loyal whose interest in politics is anchored on delivering life more abundant” to the people. “With his versatility and capacity, he can fit into any ministry and perform creditably”, Salihu argued.

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Editorial/Opinion

Politics as banditry in Nigeria

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April 15th 2019 was exactly when I boarded a British Airways night flight back to Abuja after a loaded three weeks’ vacation in the United Kingdom.

As I made for the terminal 5, of one of the world’s most glamorous and one of the busiest airports called Heathrow, a striking news story that made the papers of that day was the planned protest by some people in central London who were billed to be convoked from all parts of Europe to stage series of demonstrations to demand actions by world leaders towards addressing the impact and severe consequences of global warming and climate change. Never mind that comically, President Donald Trump who seems to have educational challenge has disputed tge veracity of climate change and proceeded to pull the USA out of the global treaty on climate change signed in Paris France.

The news of these series of protests sent the shock waves across the political spectrum in London particularly bearing in mind that similar ongoing protests called Yellow vest demonstrations have had devastating impacts to the economic and commercial wellbeing of Paris, France.

Paris in France has a global reputation as the most beautiful city to visit by tourist. So tge political establishment in UK were rattled by the prospects of having similar mass action in Oxford circus which is the commercial nerve center of London.

We will soon revert to these two key European protests by the citizens of Europe.

But the necessity for making references to these two epochal events has occurred, when at the Nigerian National Assembly a very simple and peaceful move to call the attention of political leaders to the effects of environmental pollutants by way of making policy and legal frameworks to encourage the phasing out of petrol engine cars for electric cars was rebuffed by persons who otherwise ought to know better since most of them own hoysibg assets in Europe and America. But like the proverbial giraffe, Nigerian Senators buried their faces in the sand and refuse to be futuristic. Luckily, the fervour for mass protests in Nigeria has declined. But in other developed societies, citizens are demanding actions through series of mass movements similar to civilian led revolutions. So we asked, why are the yellow vests protesting in Paris France? Media reports states correctly that the wave of protests sweeping through France is not a rejection of green policies. It’s a revolt against the 1 percent.

For the past three weeks, France has been experiencing one of the most significant social mobilizations in its recent history, which laid bare the country’s social ills, anti-elite sentiment, growing inequalities and thirst for social justice. So says the news reports.

It all started on November 17 when tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country to protest against rising fuel prices.

The protesters, dubbed “Les gilets jaunes” (the yellow vests) after the high-visibility jackets they adopted as a symbol of their complaint, blocked roundabouts, burned effigies and clashed with the police. They were angry about the almost 20 percent increase in the price of diesel since the start of the year, as well as the planned fuel tax hike President Emmanuel Macron had recently announced.

While Macron said the tax was necessary to “protect the environment” and “combat climate change”, protesters claimed the decision was yet another sign that the “arrogant” and “privileged” president is out of touch with regular folk struggling to make ends meet.

The intensity of the protests quickly forced the government to make a U-turn and first suspend and later permanently shelve its plans for fuel tax increases.

But not satisfied, media reports stated that, the protest movement was not only about fuel prices. It encompassed wider anger and frustration against the political establishment in general and President Macron in particular. As a result, the government’s decision to abandon fuel tax hikes failed to calm tensions.

The “yellow vests” want further concessions from the government. Their demands include a redistribution of wealth as well as the increase of salaries, pensions, social security payments and the minimum wage. Some say they will not settle for anything less than the president’s resignation.

So how did day-to-day frustrations about fuel prices and “green taxes” transform into a nation-wide protest movement attracting hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of weeks?

It all comes down to Macron’s apparent failure to connect with the people, understand their concerns and steer France away from destructive neoliberal policies. Now lets look at the London protests which yours faithfully missed by the whiskers because i had to return to Nigeria to resume my works. The protests in London is staged by those typically called ‘extinction rebellion Protests.’

The group describes itself as an “international movement” that uses “non-violent civil disobedience” to bring issues such as climate change to the fore.

Organizers say they want to see “radical change” to “minimize the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse”.

The movement started in the UK in 2018 after the release of a report on global warming by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – part of the United Nations.

But What do they want?Extinction Rebellion claims the government is guilty of “criminal inactivity” in addressing the climate change “crisis” and has made three key demands:

§ The government must declare an “emergency” and work with “other institutions” to make changes

§ The UK must enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025

§ A citizens’ assembly must be formed to “oversee the changes” needed to achieve this goal

The group says that under the current system the UK is “headed for disaster”, with climate change due to cause food shortages and “destroy communities”.

What did they do?

The demonstrations began at 18:00 BST on 15 April, with protesters blocking roads at Marble Arch, before moving on to Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge, Piccadilly Circus and Parliament Square.

Activists also caused more than £6,000 of damage at the Shell headquarters in Belvedere Road.

Organizers had urged members to block five “high-profile locations” by booking time off work or going on strike.

“Think festival, arrange to stay with friends or bring camping gear,” the group’s website said.

Over the next 10 days activists glued themselves to and sat on top of trains on London’s light railway, marched on Heathrow Airport, staged “die-ins”, glued themselves to the entrance of the London Stock Exchange and chained themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s home. But How did the protests affect London?

The government said the protests disrupted the lives of “many hundreds of thousands of hard-working Londoners”.

Police rest days were cancelled over the Easter bank holiday, as more than 1,000 officers were deployed across the city.

As of Thursday afternoon, a total of 1,130 activists were arrested for a range of public order offences, according to police.

So far 69 people have been charged. Who got involved?

In amongst the group’s estimated tens of thousands of protesters, Hollywood stars, global climate change campaigners and Olympians appeared at the demonstrations.

Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who gained global attention after staging a climate change protest at her school, came to London to tell demonstrators: “Keep going. You are making a difference.”

She also addressed Parliament, reprimanding the UK for supporting shale gas fracking, greater exploitation of North Sea oil and gas fields, and expanding airports.

On Waterloo Bridge, Olympic gold medal-winning canoeist Etienne Stott was one of the activists who had to be carried off by police officers.

Actress Dame Emma Thompson also joined climate change protesters on board a pink boat parked up in the centre of Oxford Circus. However, Nigeria is on the opposite side of the revolutionary pole. Senator Ben Murray- Bruce who had educational stints in Europe proposed an electric car bill but it was shot down in a manner as if to say the politicians were mere anti- environmental bandits.

The Nigerian senator, Ben Murray-Bruce, who represents Bayelsa East Senatorial District, has taken to his Twitter page to share two of the bills he recently proposed before the Senate.

One of the bills he proposed is the Electric Car Bill, which is basically seeking that the National Assembly approves the use of electric cars in Nigeria.

The Objectives of this Act are to; (a) Comply with the clean energy policy. (b) Encourage the use of modern technology, (c) De-emphasize on oil consumption, (d) Reduce air pollution.

But true to the suspicions of most activists that these senators are a bunch of anti-green bandits, the Nigerian Senate rejected this forward looking bill that sought to phase out the use of petrol cars and introduce electric cars in Nigeria by the year 2035.

Also rejected was the bill that sought to open up the Nigerian citizenship to other Africans.

The two bills were sponsored separately by Ben Murray-Bruce, the lawmaker representing Bayelsa East senatorial district on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

According to Murray-Bruce, combustion cars were causing pollution and contributing to global warming and developed countries are gradually phasing them out. He said phasing out petrol cars would help fight the twin environmental menace of global warming and air pollution.

However, Senator Jibrin Barau said there was no need to make any law compelling Nigerians to use electric cars at a particular period.

He said in view of the economic strength of individual Nigerians, it would be unwise to come up with such legislation.

While kicking against the bill, Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President, said it would affect Nigeria’s economy as an oil-producing country.

In the end, Murray-Bruce was advised to withdraw the bill, which he did.

On the bill to open up Nigerian citizenship to other Africans, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah said Sections 25, 26 and 27 of the constitution adequately took care of that. Consequently, Senate President Bukola Saraki put i t to a voice vote, and a majority of the senators voted against it.

As we await the coming of the next session of the National Assembly, Nigerians must wake up from slumber and be ready to make suggestions, stage mass movements and civil protests to ensure that all arms of government complies absolutely with best global practices in such a way that constitutional democracy would be better nurtured, promoted and protected. Making Nigerian environment cleaner and greener is a necessity that must be vigourously campaigned and actualised or we perished. We must day no to politics as banditry.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com, www.emmanuelonwibiko.com, www.thenigeriaminsidernews.com.

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